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About Al Rose
The release of Al Rose's third album, Pigeon's Throat, came in December 1999. This followed his critically acclaimed second album, Naked in a Trailer, and his debut release, Information Overload. The musicians used in these projects include the Transcendos and guests such as violinist Steve Gibons, mandolinist Stuart Rosenberg, cellist Diana Parmeter, and the occasional Transcendos organist, Carter Luke. Most listeners and critics have had a difficult time adequately describing Al Rose's music, which ranges from descriptive, "soulful-country-dada-gospel," to the less musical but more accurate description, "caffeinated madness."
Pigeon's Throat, as with the previous releases, really captures the interplay, the mesmerizing qualities that are found in any of Al Rose's live performances. In concert, Al Rose sometimes presents his music as an acoustic solo, sometimes with just a bassist, as a trio, as a rockin' quartet, and sometimes with the large band he calls the Transcendos. Al Rose's father was a local bassist and violinist in the 1940s, but his parents selected the flute as Al Rose's first instrument. Although he had learned to read and play in various school ensembles, he lost interest during high school. One rainy day he picked up an old Sears Silvertone with only three strings left that was around the house. He became obsessed, not as a guitarist, but as a singer. He started writing songs right away. With a style favoring a cowboy-chord proficiency, the early Bob Dylan songbook and the Washburn guitar he still plays, he was trying to be the profound social-singer guy. He stopped playing any of those songs.
After playing coffeehouses while in high school, he developed major musical partnerships when he arrived at college in Champaign, IL. He formed a band with Dave Kay and Maury Smith called Three Story Brownstone. Changing personnel and relocating to Chicago resulted in a name change to Buffalo Trout. By that time, Al Rose was regularly using a Fender Strat and had also taken up the alto saxophone. After ten years and several bands, Dave Kaye and Al Rose had an amicable split.
Al Rose was in search for musicians who could take his music and transcend what he had written. The Transcendos were envisioned as a large, versatile band. Early lineups included pedal steel and keyboard players. The musicians, in the year 2000, were all active throughout the Chicago music community. There was a stable core the to the Transcendos, including drummer Heath Chappell, bassist Steve Hashimoto, guitarist Victor Sanders, and vocalist Laura Blye. Former Three Story Brownstone guitarist Maury Smith is considered a full member of the Transcendos. At the beginning, Al Rose performed exclusively with the full entourage, but he felt that he wanted to explore the acoustic aspects of his music. The revivification of the coffeehouse as a forum for intriguing music served him well. Fittingly, there's a song, "Cuptigo," on the Uncommon Ground Coffeehouse Sampler disc plus a spoken word performance. The coffeehouse performances are a real organic process. The songs are the same, but the players dictate what sound you get on a particular night, but in a coffeehouse performance it's always Al Rose and his songs.
All of the Transcendos appear on his three discs. Touring for his first album, Information Overload, brought him outside of his Midwestern base from New York to Nashville to Atlanta to Boulder. The second album, Naked in a Trailer, had him being invited to industry showcases in Boston, New Orleans, Cleveland, St. Louis, and return engagements in New York and elsewhere. Al Rose has played in Bali and in Paris and is as likely to take his brush and watercolors with him as take a guitar. His artwork has been shown in galleries, including some solo exhibitions. It's another creative outlet, but it definitely is secondary to his music. The cover art to Naked in a Trailer, is graced by a detail from one of Al Rose's travel paintings. Describing Al Rose's music, for some, may always be a difficult task, but now listeners have three brilliant albums to reference and find ultimate enjoyment. ~ Larry Belanger
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